The fourth full week of the 2017 Virginia General Assembly brings the mid-point of the General Assembly Session, or “crossover”, marking the deadline when bills originating from the House or Senate must be approved by the originating chamber in order for them to have a chance at becoming law. After Wednesday, the House will only consider Senate bills, and the Senate will only consider House bills.
On Sunday, the Senate Finance Committee and House Appropriations Committee both released their budget bills, which along with the Governor’s proposed budget amendments are proposals to address the Commonwealth’s current $1.2 billion budget deficit.
The House and Senate budget bills address a number of Chamber priority budget items. Both the Senate and House budget bills restored $7.5 million in funding for GO Virginia, a regional economic development initiative that the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce has been actively involved in since legislation establishing the program was introduced last year. The Governor’s introduced budget cut $14.9 million from GO Virginia, and the Chamber has been working with members of the General Assembly to restore funding this session. Additionally in the area of economic development, the Senate budget includes restoration of $4 million for the Global Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Institute at the Inova Center for personalized Health, another important regional priority that the Chamber has strongly supported.
The House budget restored $2 million for the program.
Over the course of the coming weeks, each legislative chamber will reject the other’s budget bill, resulting in a committee of conference to reconcile the differences in the House and Senate budgets. The Chamber’s government relations staff will continue to review the specifics of the House and Senate budget proposals and advocate for inclusion of funding for Northern Virginia-specific priorities, particularly around economic development, education, and workforce development.
From the Northern Virginia Delegation, we can expect Senators Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), as well as Delegates Tag Greason (R-Loudoun) and Luke Torian (D-Prince William), to serve on the conference committee.
Metro Safety Commission
Legislation ratifying the Metro Safety Commission, a core Northern Virginia Chamber priority for the 2017 Virginia General Assembly session, took two major steps last week toward approval by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Senate Bill 1251, carried by Senator George Barker (D-Fairfax), passed the Senate unanimously, while House Bill 2136, carried by Delegate Jim LeMunyon (R-Fairfax), passed unanimously out of the House Transportation Committee with a vote scheduled on the House floor on Tuesday.
The Metro Safety Commission is a federally mandated commission that will operate with complete autonomy to oversee safety of the Washington Metrorail System. The governing bodies of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia must approve identical language for the safety commission to be enacted.
After considerable negotiation between House members and the Administration, the House version of the Metro Safety Commission bill contains language that directs the Secretary of Transportation and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to engage in discussions with the District of Columbia and Maryland to explore revisions to the current WMATA compact around labor costs, pension liability, and board composition. The Chamber supported language that directed these discussions, however it opposed any language that could delay establishment of the safety commission or place additional federal transportation monies at risk. The adopted compromise seeks to address structural issues at WMATA while also protecting federal transit funding and delaying the establishment of the safety commission.
Regional Motor Fuels Tax Floor
The Chamber strongly supports implementation of a floor to the regional motor fuels tax in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Senate Bill 1456, carried by Senator Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), was approved by the full Senate on Friday, and will now head over to the House of Delegates for consideration. Senator Wagner’s bill would implement a technical fix necessary because of an oversight in the landmark 2013 transportation law, House Bill 2313. Due to this oversight, Northern Virginia has experienced a shortfall of $35 million for road and transit funding just this year.
Broadband Deployment Act
Throughout the 2017 session, the Northern Virginia Chamber has supported House Bill 2108, a bill carried by Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Lynchburg) which deals with broadband deployment by local governments or governmental authorities. The bill, as amended, enhances transparency when local governments or authorities expand into the broadband development business by eliminating an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act.
It is important to the business community to ensure that when local governments or authorities enter into a service that competes with the private sector that it is done so on a level playing field and that taxpayers are able to ensure their tax dollars are expended appropriately. The House Commerce and Labor Committee last week passed House Bill 2108 and it will be considered by the full House this week.
Taxation and Regulation
The Chamber, along with member companies and other business organizations, successfully opposed a bill that would have phased-out the Research and Development tax credit. Just last year, the Chamber strongly supported legislative efforts to expand and enhance the R&D Tax Credit as an important tool to grow the economy throughout the Commonwealth and incentivize companies to locate their major R&D operations in Virginia. The effort to roll back the credit was unanimously defeated in the Senate Finance Committee.
In addition, House Bill 1961, put forth by Delegate Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax) at the request of the Northern Virginia Chamber, directs the Department of Taxation to issue a regulation consistent with the Virginia Supreme Court ruling in Arlington v. Nielsen. This regulation will create a level playing field for businesses as it relates to appointment of BPOL Tax. The bill was approved on a unanimous vote of 95-0 in the House of Delegates and will now be considered by the Senate.
To keep up to date on the Chamber’s efforts in Richmond, be sure to follow the weekly recap and Doing Business newsletters, as well as participate in the weekly General Assembly update conference call each Friday morning at 8:00 AM. Call in information is below:
Call-in number: (641) 715-3580